Katherine Cheng

Photographer
    
[CBC] Parallel Lives
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Location: Toronto
Nationality: Canadian
Biography: Katherine is a documentary and conceptual photographer based between Toronto and Hong Kong. Exploring themes of climate crisis, Asian diaspora, and social movements, she believes in the power of visual storytelling to connect one another and drive... MORE
Public Story
[CBC] Parallel Lives
Copyright Katherine Cheng 2022
Updated Jun 2022
Location Toronto, Canada
Topics Archival, Canada, Documentary, Essays, Family, Friends + Family, History, Hong Kong, Human Rights, Immigration, Migration, Mixed Medium, Parenting & Family, Personal Projects, Photography
Summary
My parents immigrated from Hong Kong to Canada and I was born in Toronto. Years later, I moved back to Hong Kong and finally understood what their journey across seas must have been like.
Growing up, the birthplace of my ancestral roots seemed distant to me.

“Hong Kong. 香港. Fragrant Harbour.”

I was the youngest of my family and the only one born in Canada, after my parents immigrated to Toronto in 1990. It was on the other side of the planet, 12 hours ahead during daylight savings time, and my connection to it felt weak.Growing up in Canadian suburbia, I first got to learn about Hong Kong as a child through the dusty photo albums hidden in an attic. My parents had decided in the mid-1980s to move to Canada in pursuit of the promise of opportunities and a better life for me and my sisters, just as their parents had migrated from a small village in eastern China to Hong Kong.

My parents’ move coincided with a wave of migration in the years leading up to Britain’s 1997 handover of Hong Kong back to China. For more than 150 years, Hong Kong had been a colony of the British Empire. With uncertainty looming about this impending change, it incited a wave of emigration from Hong Kong. For some, the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre stoked fear and exacerbated people’s decision to move.

Flipping through the yellowing 4x6 memories and one-inch transparent slides, the lives of my family in Hong Kong seemed unrecognizable and unrelatable at times. Formal black-and-white posed studio portraits of my parents as children standing stiffly with my grandparents. Later newly married and carefree, not yet burdened by the toll of time. Smiling faces gathered around a round table for shared dinners served from a rotating centre turntable, many of them complete strangers to me.My own life in Canada must have felt foreign to them at times too, filled with school pizza lunches and dinners at friends’ homes where dishes were passed from hand to hand.

To read the full story, please visit CBC First Persons.
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[CBC] Parallel Lives by Katherine Cheng
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